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Migration as social-imperial project: I
You pay an organisation to do what makes its resources go up: IV
This article can be adumbrated thusly: multiculturalism is an imperial policy, not a democratic one. It lets bureaucracies play favour-and-dominate games, dividing the demos against itself.
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In ancient Greece, democracy gave authority (kratos) to the largest block of (male) citizens—the demos (common people)—by giving them the vote.
Imperial systems prefer not to deal with a coherent demos. Imperial systems like populaces divided up so various favour-and-dominate games can be played, for obvious reasons.
The extolling of a culturally diverse (“multicultural”) society—especially one that downplays national citizenship in favour of a globalised humanity of variant identities—pushes policy and policy structures in an imperial direction and not in a democratic one. As commentators likeand David Goodhart have noted, in the UK multiculturalist bureaucracies have transferred onto domestic governance patterns used historically in Britain’s colonial possessions. DIE differentiates folk by group identities and then orders those identities into moralised hierarchies. This is a classic favour-and-dominate mechanism.
Crowding, congesting, disrupting, suppressing
The claimed economic benefits of migration—used to justify increasing the ethnic and religious diversity of the populace—are wildly overstated. They typically ignore or understate crowding and congestion effects as well as the importance of positional goods (amenity/status goods rationed in supply such that they gain value from others not having them). Every political system is full of positional goods.
Thus, access to infrastructure can have crowding, congestion and positional-good effects, given the long lags in its creation. As health, education and even welfare services rely on infrastructure, this can seriously increase congestion costs in localities with lots of newcomers.
Land-use zoning can be a highly effective way to protect or increase the value of a locality, especially given differences in geographical amenity (beach access, harbour views, hill-top views, closeness to parks and greenery).
Indeed, the more varied geographical amenity in a city, the more restrictive land-use zoning is likely to be used to restrict access to nice views and other advantages. The consequence of restricting the supply of land for housing while population increases is sharply rising house prices and rents. The more those seeking housing are non-voters, the easier it is for regulators to discount their interests via restrictive zoning. Surging shelter costs are often not incorporated in assessments of the economic costs of migration.
Mass migration breaks up locality-based social connections (aka social capital: what anthropologists call relational wealth), greatly reducing local people’s ability to have a say over their local communities, to be informed and to manage risk. This aggravates migration’s tendency to increase returns to land and capital (including human capital) far more than any returns to labour.
As housing economist Kevin Erdmann points out:
The residents of ZIP codes in Los Angeles and New York City are living in neighborhoods where rent takes 50%+ of their incomes for the same reason some families remain in dying towns in places like Appalachia in spite of the lack of local employment opportunities. They value place. And where housing is obstructed, those families have to pay up for every last cent of that value, until they can pay no more and they must move away, which they are by the hundreds of thousands.
Migrants will move into supply-congested cities. They have already given up the connections of place. The locally-born working class, not so much. On the contrary, they are increasingly driven out of such cities as shelter costs rise and their local connections shrink.
The increasing numbers of single-parent households at the bottom end of society also funnels the benefits of economic growth to society’s top end. Single-parent households have fewer social connections: a standard advantage of marriage is precisely that it brings together two sets of social connections. (All marriage systems create in-laws: i.e., new kin connections.)
That wages are “sticky” (money wages are generally not reduced) obscures the downward pressures immigration puts on wages, suppressing wages rather than cutting them.
As previously discussed (see also here), the Baumol Effect means that competition for high productivity workers raises wages in occupations that do not enjoy increases in productivity. Using migration to make labour more plentiful compared to capital suppresses the Baumol effect and so suppresses wages.
Hence the pandemic pause on migration led to (money) wages at the lower end of labour markets starting to rise noticeably in the US and the UK: the Baumol Effect was no longer being suppressed. In other words, as demographer Peter Turchin argues here, it is a not a coincidence that US growth in real wages essentially stopped a few years after mass migration to the US resumed.
Australia did not experience the same wage effect from the pandemic, as its points-based system for migration means that its (mostly educated) migrants on average raise the local level of capital. This tends to put some upward pressure on wages from migration, through increasing the scarcity of labour relative to capital.
If migrants maintain (or, in the case of Australia) raise the average level of capital, then migration does not make capital relatively more scarce, so migration is much less likely to shift flows of income to labour’s disadvantage. Migrant nannies and other personal services to the rich are much less of a thing in Australia than in the US and UK—providers of such services are much more likely to be locals—despite Australia’s proportionately much higher migration rates.
Skewing migration towards those with capital also broadens the range of goods and services migrants are likely to provide. This means more complementarity in goods and services produced (so higher levels of mutual gain) and less substitution of migrant workers for local workers (which generates more uneven costs and benefits).
Humans being social
The basic patterns of human resource interaction are: (structured) sharing, connection, exchange, and coercion. Gifts, for instance, are investments in connection. Connections are often characterised by exchanges of favours.
Mainstream economics focuses on exchange. Anything priced is more mathematically tractable while gains from trade enable simplifying behavioural assumptions. This simplification extends to national accounts treating consensual exchanges (so with gains-from-trade) and non-consensual services (with no guaranteed net gains) as equivalent.*
Even in our highly monetised societies—with market exchange providing ever more services—many resource interactions are not based on exchange. Consider use of common areas such as roads, footpaths, foyers, parks, lifts, hallways, and all the other structured sharings that pervade city life in particular. These rely on norms and signals, including the potential for legal action (coercion).
Rule-of-law countries have a lot more successful and extensive structured sharing: especially if they have high-trust cultures. Such cultures rely on shared norms and signals that can clearly be disrupted by influxes of sizeable blocs of people who do not share those norms and signals. On the other hand, if migration is comprised of lots of different small groups, those migrants are more likely to be readily socialised into the dominant culture’s norms-and-social-signals.
Calling connection social capital tends to devalue its importance, treating it as an “add on” to human interactions, when it is much more fundamental. Foraging societies rely on structured sharing (especially of food) and connection way more than they do exchange, even if their sharing can be a form of trading across time.
Any exchange that operates across more than one time-period creates connection(s) that have to be managed. This is a reality with which contract and employment law grapples. A major component of employer behaviour is trying to ensure employees continue to invest in the employment connection, as no contract can specify all contingencies.
Examining migration through the prism of market exchanges understates its potential impact on societies. The focus of mainstream economics on efficiency (maximising output) over resilience (ability to cope with change) also means it often lacks the language, or analytical framework, to examine migration in anything resembling a comprehensive way.
This is magnified when one gets economists—whose networks are not locality-based—failing to understand the importance of place to people whose networks are very much locality-based. See here for a particularly egregious example, where three economists—one of whom has since achieved a Nobel Memorial—use the (patronising) term compositional amenity while failing to realise what they are examining. These are people with locality-based connections, and they value those connections.
Economists’ focus on exchange, efficiency and what is priced means that economists find it easy to ignore or downplay issues of social resilience. This despite a Nobel Memorial laureate (Robert Fogel) publishing a book-length study (Without Consent or Contract) on how the development of steamships and railways led to mass migration destabilising—to the point of civil war—the American Republic across its fault-line of slavery, through mass migration’s impact on the US political system. One has to be pretty blind not to notice how mass migration is aggravating the metro/provincial divide in the US, UK and France.
Differences in culture—in language, norms, patterns of behaviour, expectations, social cues and so on—increase the transaction costs of social interactions and inhibit social coordination.
The inertia, the persistence, of culture is a central part of its social utility. It makes mutual expectations more stable. Religion, by sanctifying cultural patterns, makes norms and patterns more stable still by giving them greater authority. This makes them a robust means of social coordination. Religion tends to increase cultural inertia.
A likely reason for religion’s ubiquity across human cultures is that it thereby increases the robustness of social cooperation. It does so while also helping us to cope with being self-conscious beings: it generates meaningful framings for one’s place in the world.
Importing large numbers of people with different religious cultures increases coordination and transaction costs in a society, a burden that falls most heavily on communities most flooded with newcomers.
If diversity clogs up infrastructure provision through complicating political bargaining—whether by more diverse sets of preferences, higher coordination costs from communication difficulties, or increased numbers of non-citizens, so non-voters—it can further increase congestion costs.
If different migrant groups vote systematically differently (more welfare-dependant and culturally-alienated voting progressive, less welfare-dependant and more heritage-committed voting conservative), they can be used as internal political levers. Hence the push to disconnect voting from citizenship.
Sanctifying different social syntheses
While Christianity and Islam both began as Middle Eastern monotheisms, they sanctify different social patterns.
Christianity, growing up in the highly law-oriented Roman Empire, sanctified the Roman synthesis: law is human, single-spouse marriage, no kin groups, no cousin (or other consanguineous) marriage, plus female consent for marriage and testamentary rights. This drove the development of partnership marriages within Christian societies.
It also led to the development of a rich array of mechanisms for social cooperation and bargaining politics. People built substitutes for what kin groups did in other societies. Having social and political bargains able to be entrenched in law greatly increased the value of such bargains.
Islam evolved out of a pastoralist raiding culture. So it sanctified polygyny, kin groups, and the raiding and enslaving of outsiders. It also sanctified law based on revelation, drawing on customary law while adapting (mainly commercial) aspects of Roman law. Islam’s sanctification of the pastoralist synthesis—like Christianity’s sanctification of the Roman synthesis—developed over time.
While a certain amount of implicit political bargaining occurred within Islam—based on capacity to resist or influence legal decisions—explicit political bargains could not be entrenched in law, as Sharia (like Brahmin law) is based on revelation. This barrier to entrenching social and political bargains in law profoundly undermined any alternatives to autocracy.
Pastoralist cultures develop strong patrilineal kin-groups. Protecting mobile assets is best done with robust personal associations, such as among warriors of common lineage who grow up together. Patrilineal kin-groups is a way of generating particularly robust male teams.
Strong kin-groups tend to colonise (and weaken) other institutions, as the kin-group is forever, so generate very strong webs of connections. This is even more so in Middle Eastern Islam, with its strong patterns of parallel (i.e. inside the kin-group) cousin marriage. Conversely, one of the contemporary appeals of Christianity in Africa is that it allows people to escape from the confining ties of their kin-groups, replacing kin-group with chosen congregations and association.
The colonising-institution effect of kin-groups in Islam led—as the pastoralist synthesis was increasingly sanctified—to the widespread use of slave warriors (and even slave officials) in Middle Eastern Islam.
Slavery imposes “social death” on the enslaved, eliminating all outside ties, including kin ties. This is even more so if the slaves were transported long distances from where they were born, though ensuring they had no kin ties within the Muslim community also worked. Slaves were reliant on their master, rather than being loyal to any kin group.
Keeping herds within the kin group, having kin-group daughters breed warriors within the kin group not outside it, and women not being separated from their natal kin-group, generated strong cousin marriage incentives.
Women also had good reason to support marrying within the kin group—where they had protective connections—rather than into another kin group, where they would be stripped of them. By destroying the ritual barriers that enforce exogamy in other kin-group systems, non-Christian monotheism let loose generations of cousin marriage, with compounding deleterious dysgenic effects on health across generations.
The slave warrior legacy (autocracy independent of the local society for its coercive force) plus cousin-marriage kin-groups means that Middle Eastern Islam has a persistent “democratic deficit” problem that the rest of Islam does not share (pdf).
The cultural legacies of polygyny
Islam’s sanctification of polygyny encouraged sequestering (i.e. hoarding) of women. This sequestering effect was magnified by Sharia requiring either a confession or four male witnesses to sustain a charge of rape.
When elite males have multiple wives in their household, competition among wives for their children’s prospects undermines female status. Unlike Christian husbands (up to and including kings), a Muslim husband with competing wives was not going to leave one of them in charge in his absence.
Polygyny also provides strong incentives for elite wives to protect their reputation by signalling commitment to chaste norms through wearing headscarves and veils. Such veiling is—as with sequestering women and women remaining within their immediate neighbourhood—a manifestation of the wider principle that (in the absence of protective law) you get self-help.
In recent decades, as women started leaving their neighbourhoods for work and education, veiling by Muslim women has spread. Veiling signals commitment to the reputational norms of Islam in societies where women had historically stayed home or in their immediate neighbourhood.
The “new veiling movement” started in middle-class families, where daughters were more likely to be educated or to work outside the home. This increase in public use of religious signalling reinforced Islam’s social strength.
Polygyny also generates a surplus of men in the local marriage market. The typical pastoralist response to this has been to say “those people over there have women, steal theirs”. This is sanctified in Islam by the references in the Quran to “those thy right hand possesses”; by the provision in Sharia that if a woman is captured by a Muslim man, her marriage is automatically annulled; and by Muhammad distributing among his followers the wives and children of slaughtered male opponents as slaves.
Sexual predation on women who do not accept the rules of Allah—the sovereign of the universe—is sanctified by the Quran (the words of Allah), the hadith (the actions and words of Muhammad) and the sira (the life of Muhammad).
Thus were raiding, raping, enslaving patterns of pastoralism sanctified in Islam. This even went so far as promising endless sex in the hereafter if men were killed while killing for Islam. This is a different concept of martyrdom from that of Christians dying to affirm Christian truth.
Polygynous Islam has always been able to generate ghazis, holy warriors, on its frontiers. Sanctified raiding, enslaving, and raping has had a great deal to do with the expansion of Islam across most of its current range in the contiguous Middle East.
Indeed, the Ottomans turned this pattern into a system. Ghazis would raid neighbouring lands, degrading their economic capacity and driving away its population. The main Ottoman army would invade and conquer. Settlers would be moved in. The ghazis would advance to the new border. Rinse and repeat.
Systematising the raiding dynamics of Islamic expansion worked for the Ottomans for a quarter of a millennium, from 1299 to the mid C16th. That is, until the Habsburg monarchy created the Military Frontier. (The Militärgrenze, Vojna krajina/Vojna granica, Katonai határőrvidék, or Graniță militară, in German, Serbo-Croat, Hungarian and Romanian, respectively.)
This was a classic European Christian political bargain. Free peasants living in fortified villages, electing their own officers and magistrates, free of feudal dues, with extra tax benefits, formed border militias who would raid in kind. The Military Frontier brought the Ottoman advance into the Balkans to a halt.
My next essay continues the examination of migration as a social-imperial project, including how religiously-sanctified social differences raise the social cost of Middle Eastern Muslim migrants while making them useful migrants for favour-and-dominate purposes.
* All government expenditure on goods and services is treated as equal to its monetary cost, when the social benefit is likely to be wildly variant. Very high for effective policing, not so much for the expensive child-minding we call schooling.
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